United States presidential election, 1868: Wikis

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1864 United States 1872
United States presidential election, 1868
November 3, 1868
Ulysses Grant 1870-1880.jpg Horatio Seymour - Brady-Handysmall.png
Nominee Ulysses S. Grant Horatio Seymour
Party Republican Democratic
Home state Ohio New York
Running mate Schuyler Colfax Francis Preston Blair, Jr.
Electoral vote 214 80
States carried 26 8
Popular vote 3,013,650 2,708,744
Percentage 52.7% 47.3%
ElectoralCollege1868.svg
Presidential election results map. red denotes states won by Grant/Colfax, Blue denotes those won by Seymour/Blair, Green denotes those states still under Union martial rule. Numbers indicate the number of electoral votes allotted to each state.

Incumbent President
Andrew Johnson
National Union Party

President-elect
Ulysses S. Grant
Republican

The United States presidential election of 1868 was the first presidential election to take place during Reconstruction. Three of the former Confederate states (Texas, Mississippi, and Virginia) were not yet readmitted to the Union and therefore could not vote in the election.

The incumbent President, Andrew Johnson (who had ascended to the Presidency in 1865 following the assassination of President Lincoln), was unsuccessful in his attempt to receive the Democratic presidential nomination because he had alienated so many people and had not built up a political base. Instead the Democrats nominated Horatio Seymour to take on the Republican candidate, Civil War hero General Ulysses S. Grant. Grant was one of the most popular men in the North due to his effort in winning the Civil War.

Although Seymour gave Grant a good race in the popular vote, he was buried in the electoral college. It comes as a surprise that the popular vote was so close considering how Grant benefited from many advantages such as massive popularity in the North, Freedmen voting in the entire South, and the disenfranchisement of some Southern whites.

Contents

Background

Reconstruction was a hotly debated issue north and south. Seymour wanted to carry out a Reconstruction policy which would emphasize peaceful reconciliation with the South, a policy similar to that advocated by Abraham Lincoln and President Andrew Johnson. Grant, on the other hand, was willing to support the Reconstruction plans of the Radical Republicans in Congress. The Radical Republicans wanted to punish the South and former rebels. The Republican platform left the issue of Black Suffrage in the North to the States while emphasizing granting political rights to the freedmen as the basis for the foundation of Republican Parties in the conquered south.

Nominations

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Republican Party nomination

Republican candidate:

Candidates gallery

Grant/Colfax campaign poster
Grant/Colfax humorous campaign card

By 1868, Republicans felt strong enough to drop the Union Party label. The Republicans badly needed a popular hero for their presidential candidate in 1868. The Democratic Party still controlled many large Northern states that had a great percentage of the electoral votes. General Ulysses S. Grant announced he was a Republican and was unanimously nominated as the party's standard bearer. Speaker Schuyler Colfax, a Radical Republican, was nominated for Vice President.

Presidential Ballot
Ballot 1st
Ulysses S. Grant 650
Vice Presidential Ballot
Ballot 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th Before Shifts 5th After Shifts
Schuyler Colfax 115 145 165 186 226 541
Benjamin Wade 147 170 178 206 207 38
Reuben E. Fenton 126 144 139 144 139 69
Henry Wilson 119 114 101 87 56 0
Andrew G. Curtin 51 45 40 0 0 0
Hannibal Hamlin 28 30 25 25 20 0
James Speed 22 0 0 0 0 0
James Harlan 16 0 0 0 0 0
John A.J. Creswell 14 0 0 0 0 0
Samuel C. Pomeroy 6 0 0 0 0 0
William D. Kelley 4 0 0 0 0 0

Democratic Party nomination

Democratic candidates:

Candidates gallery

Seymour/Blair campaign poster

The front-runner in the early balloting was George H. Pendleton, who led on the first 15 ballots, followed in varying order by incumbent president Andrew Johnson, Winfield Scott Hancock, Sanford Church, Asa Packer, Joel Parker, James E. English, James R. Doolittle, and Thomas A. Hendricks. The unpopular Johnson, having narrowly survived impeachment, reached his peak strength of 65 votes on the first ballot, less than one-third of the total necessary for nomination, thus losing his bid for election as president in his own right.

Meanwhile, convention chairman Horatio Seymour received 9 votes on the fourth ballot from the state of North Carolina. This unexpected move caused "loud and enthusiastic cheering," but Seymour left his chair, advanced to the front of the platform and made his refusal. "I must not be nominated by this Convention, as I could not accept the nomination if tendered. My own inclination prompted me to decline at the outset; my honor compels me to do so now. It is impossible, consistently with my position, to allow my name to be mentioned in this Convention against my protest. The clerk will proceed with the call."

After numerous indecisive ballots, the names of John T. Hoffman, Francis P. Blair, and Stephen J. Field were placed in nomination. However, none of these candidates gained substantial support.

For twenty-one ballots, the opposing candidates were at loggerheads: the east battling the west for control, the conservatives battling the radicals. The two leading candidates were determined that the other should not receive the nomination; because of the two-thirds rule of the convention it was apparent that a compromise candidate would have to be found. Seymour still was hoping it would be Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase, but on the twenty-second ballot, the chairman of the Ohio delegation announced that "at the unanimous request and demand of the delegation I place Horatio Seymour in nomination with twenty-one votes-against his inclination, but no longer against his honor."

Seymour had to wait for the none rousing cheers to die down before he could address the delegates and make another refusal. "I have no terms in which to tell of my regret that my name has been brought before this convention. God knows that my life and all that I value most I would give for the good of my country, which I believe to be identified with that of the Democratic party..." "Take the nomination, then!" cried someone from the floor. "..but when I said that I could not be a candidate, I mean it! I could not receive the nomination without placing not only myself but the Democratic party in a false position. God bless you for your kindness to me, but your candidate I cannot be."

Perspiring profusely from the intense heat, excited and overwrought, Seymour left to platform to cool off and rest. No sooner had he left the hall than the Ohio chairman cried that his delegation would not accept Seymour's declination; Utah's chairman rose to say that Seymour was the man they had to have. While Seymour was waiting in the vestibule, mopping his brow, the convention nominated him unanimously, named a vice-presidential candidate in great haste, and shut up shop before Seymour could dash back into the hall and reject their offer still once again.

General Francis Preston Blair, Jr. was nominated unanimously for Vice President on the first ballot after John A. McClernand, Augustus C. Dodge, and Thomas Ewing, Jr. withdrew their names from consideration. Blair had just brought himself into prominence by a violent, not to say a revolutionary letter, addressed to Colonel James O. Broadhead, dated a few days before the convention met. The nomination seemed to be, and probably was, a result of that letter.

Presidential Ballot
Ballot 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th 11th 12th 13th 14th 15th 16th 17th 18th 19th 20th 21st 22nd Before Shifts 22nd After Shifts
Horatio Seymour 0 0 0 9 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 22 317
George H. Pendleton 105 104 119.5 118.5 122 122.5 137.5 156.5 144 147.5 144.5 145.5 134.5 130 129.5 107.5 70.5 56.5 0 0 0 0 0
Thomas A. Hendricks 2.5 2 9.5 11.5 19.5 30 39.5 75 80.5 82.5 88 89 81 84.5 82.5 70.5 80 87 107.5 121 132 145.5 0
Winfield Scott Hancock 33.5 40.5 45.5 43.5 46 47 42.5 28 34.5 34 32.5 30 48.5 56 79.5 113.5 137.5 144.5 135.5 142.5 135.5 103.5 0
Andrew Johnson 65 52 34.5 32 24 21 12.5 6 5.5 6 5.5 4.5 4.5 0 5.5 5.5 6 10 0 0 5 4 0
Sanford E. Church 34 33 33 33 33 33 33 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Asa Packer 26 26 26 26 27 27 26 26 26.5 27.5 26 26 26 26 0 0 0 0 22 0 0 0 0
James E. English 16 12.5 7.5 7.5 7 6 6 6 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 6 16 19 7 0
Joel Parker 13 15.5 13 13 13 13 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 3.5 0 0 0 0 0
James R. Doolittle 13 12.5 12 12 15 12 12 12 12 12 12.5 12.5 13 13 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 4 0
Reverdy Johnson 8.5 8 11 8 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Francis Preston Blair 0.5 10.5 4.5 2 9.5 5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0 0 0 0 0 13.5 13 0 0 0
Thomas Ewing 0 0.5 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
John Q. Adams 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Salmon P. Chase 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.5 0.5 0 0 0 0.5 0.5 0.5 0 4 0 0
George B. McClellan 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.5 0 0
Franklin Pierce 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
John T. Hoffman 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 3 0 0 0.5 0 0
Stephen J. Field 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 15 9 8 0 0
Thomas H. Seymour 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 2 0 0 0
Vice Presidential Ballot
Ballot 1st
Francis Preston Blair 317

General election

Campaign

1868 presidential campaign poster for Ulysses S. Grant, created by superimposing a portrait of Grant onto the platform of the Republican Party.

The 1868 campaign of Horatio Seymour versus Ulysses S. Grant was conducted vigorously. The Republicans were fearful as late as October that they might be beaten. The Democrats were the disinherited party, Seymour had been called a traitor, a troublemaker, the votes of thousands of southern Democrats would not be counted, yet everyone knew that Seymour, the man of charity and peace, would give the warrior Grant a hard race.

Grant took no part in the campaign and made no promises. A line in his letter of acceptance of the nomination became the Republican campaign theme—"Let us have peace." After four years of civil war, three years of wrangling over Reconstruction, and the attempted impeachment of a president, the nation craved the peace Grant pledged to achieve. The voters were told that if they wanted to reopen the Civil War they need only elect Horatio Seymour, spreading lurid tales of murder and massacre in the south to prove that the south needed the heavy foot of the conqueror on her neck. Despite the fervent thanks of Lincoln and Stanton for his quick dispatch of troops to Gettysburg, Seymour was branded in the press as disloyal to the Union.

The Radical Republicans, who had tried to impeach President Johnson for his peaceful attitude toward the south, did their best to impeach Seymour before he ever set foot in Washington. On the low road, Republicans alleged that insanity ran through the Seymour family, citing as evidence the suicide of his father. Henry Ward Beecher branded him a coward and a traitor by declaring him to be "a man who, through all the years of 1860 to 1868, studies how to help southern treason without incurring the risks and pains of overt courageous treasonable acts."

Newspaper descriptions of the life and character of Horatio Seymour were staggering. The New York Tribune led the cartoon campaign with the picture of Seymour standing on the steps of the City Hall calling a mob of murderers "my friends". The New York Post called him "childless, scheming, not studious, selfish, stealthy, earnest of power, feeble, insincere, timid, closefisted, inept, too weak to be enterprising." The Hartford Post called him "almost as much of a corpse" as ex-President Buchanan, who had just died. "Seymour is a little creation; his face is an outlined wriggle; its expression is a dodge. He has a smooth tongue, feeble health, a constant fear of aberration. His art is to wheedle the vain, promise the ambitious, and charm the religious."

Seymour answered none of the charges made against him, but went his quiet way by making a few key speeches, indulging in no violence, no slander, and no fraud. The bitterness and abuse heaped upon him seeped into history through the medium of the unrestrained newspaper and the partisan historian, never to be completely dislodged; his conduct of the campaign did his country and the institution of free elections great good, helped to keep alive the two-party system when the opposition was determined to remain the only party that could hold power.

Results

Horatio Seymour polled 2,708,744 votes against 3,013,650 for Grant. If all the white men of the south had been permitted to vote, the election would have come very close to being a tie. The closeness of the race startled the nation at the time.

The Radical Republicans regarded black suffrage as a way to ensure that the Republicans would not become a minority party of the restored Union. Therefore, the Republicans took steps to protect their political power by passing the Fifteenth Amendment.

Presidential candidate Party Home state Popular vote(a) Electoral
vote(a)
Running mate Running mate's
home state
Running mate's
electoral vote(a)
Count Pct
Ulysses Simpson Grant Republican Illinois 3,013,650 52.7% 214 Schuyler Colfax Indiana 214
Horatio Seymour Democratic New York 2,708,744 47.3% 80 Francis Preston Blair, Jr. Missouri 80
Other 46 0.0% Other
Total 5,722,440 100% 294 294
Needed to win 148 148

Source (Popular Vote): Leip, David. 1868 Presidential Election Results. Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections (July 27, 2005). Source (Electoral Vote): Electoral College Box Scores 1789–1996. Official website of the National Archives. (July 31, 2005). (a) Mississippi, Texas, and Virginia did not participate in the election of 1868 due to Reconstruction. In Florida, the state legislature cast its electoral vote.

Close states

Red font color denotes states won by Republican Ulysses S. Grant; blue denotes those won by Democrat Horatio Seymour.

States where the margin of victory was under 5% (101 electoral votes)

  1. California 0.48%
  2. Oregon 0.74%
  3. New York 1.18%
  4. New Jersey 1.76%
  5. Alabama 2.50%
  6. Indiana 2.79%
  7. Connecticut 2.98%
  8. Pennsylvania 4.41%

References

  • Gambill, Edward. Conservative Ordeal: Northern Democrats and Reconstruction, 1865-1868. (Iowa State University Press: 1981).
  • Edward McPherson. The Political History of the United States of America During the Period of Reconstruction (1875) large collection of speeches and primary documents, 1865-1870, complete text online.[The copyright has expired.]
  • Rhodes, James G. History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850 to the McKinley-Bryan Campaign of 1896. Volume: 6. (1920). 1865-72; detailed narrative history
  • Simpson, Brooks D. Let Us Have Peace: Ulysses S. Grant and the Politics of War and Reconstruction, 1861-1868 (1991).
  • Summers, Mark Wahlgren.The Press Gang: Newspapers and Politics, 1865-1878 (1994)

See also

External links

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